Growing evidence suggests breathwork can be highly beneficial to the body in a number of ways. But could it shrink your waistline, too? We asked pharmacist and holistic health expert, Niraj Naik.

A healthy diet and regular exercise are the long-held pillars of weight loss, but could breathwork be an overlooked component? Certified pharmacist and holistic health expert Niraj Naik says it may, particularly the ancient practice of Bhastrika Pranayama. Naik is also the founder of breathwork school, SOMA Breath.

“In Sanskrit, the word Bhastrika means ‘bellows’. Think of the airbag device with two handles that is used to blow large amounts of air onto a fire. When more oxygen is introduced to a fire it causes a faster combustion rate to occur while producing more energy in the form of heat,” he says.

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“When you practice Bhastrika Pranayama, your abdomen is acting just like a bellows in the sense that it is pumping more air (mostly the oxygen our body needs) inn to our internal fire. It makes our body produce more energy.”

According to one study conducted in 2013, researchers suggested this breathing technique “causes increase in basal metabolic rate, and because of this, there is increase in calories consumption and decrease in fat deposition and so reduction in weight.”

In other scientific observations, specific ways of breathing may contribute to decreased metabolic syndrome–a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Other than that, there’s not a whole lot of conclusive evidence to suggest a direct correlation between breathwork and weight loss, but there could be indirect links.

The benefits of breathwork and mindfulness have been shown to improve overall wellness, including reducing stress and improving sleep quality. There is a lot of literature that links stress and poor sleep quality to weight gain.

If you’re interested in Bhastrika Pranayama, Naik gives the following instructions:

Do this exercise first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach.

1. Sit comfortably with your back straight in an upright position.

2. Inhale fully through your nostrils and then exhale forcefully from your nostrils.

3. Use your abdominal muscles to push the air in and out of your lungs – like a bellows.

4. Keep repeating this continuously for around 20-30 reps. You can use mala beads or fingers to count.